The Africa continent is said to be the most linguistically diverse continent of the world. The African Union therefore created the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN-AU) as its specialised institution to transform this language diversity to serve as a factor for African integration and development. ACALAN is the official body mandated to develop and promote African languages, and to provide technical support to Member States for the formulation and implementation of language policies and strategies of language development and use. ACALAN officially launched the African Languages Week in Ouagadougou, in collaboration with the government of Burkina Faso, in July 2021. The launch of the African Languages Week was in line with its adoption by the Third Specialised Technical Committee on Youth, Culture and Sport of the African Union (STC-YCS3), in October 2018 in Algiers, Algeria, on the proposal of the Executive Secretariat of the African Academy of Languages. It is a pathway of realising Agenda 2063 of the African Union, specifically Aspiration 5 that promotes “An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, shared values and ethics.”
The African Languages Week was launched as a perpetual rendez-vous and major annual event to be held from 24 to 30 January that should be observed by all member states of the African Union, to commemorate the relevance of African languages and cultures in Africa and the African diaspora, as a special moment of African identity and in celebrating African patrimony, culture, identity and heritage. It was recommended during the launching that a standing committee to be named the African Languages Week Coordinating Committee be established by the Executive Secretariat of ACALAN and that the theme of the celebration for 2022 was determined to be “African Languages: Levers for Building the Africa We Want”.
The African Languages Week Coordinating Committee was thus established by the Executive Secretariat of ACALAN as a standing Committee with a tenure of five years renewable only once, adhering as much as possible, to the African Union gender parity policy from the six regions of the Organisation, i.e., Central, East, North, Southern, West Africa and the Diaspora. The main role of the Committee is to stimulate more dynamism for the development and promotion of African languages across the African continent and in the African Diaspora by assisting ACALAN in the annual celebration and to ensure the smooth running of the activities of the African Languages Week by proposing the theme for each year, and mobilising resources (human, technical and financial) for planning and organising the activities of the week throughout the continent and in the Diaspora, in collaboration with National Language Structures in the Member States serving as ACALAN’s national focal institutions.
It is within this context that ACALAN-AU is organising the inaugural African Languages Week to provide an opportunity to showcase and promote African languages and cultures across Africa and the African Diaspora from 24 to 30 January 2022 and to deliberate on accelerating the realisation of Agenda 2063.
The main objective of the inaugural edition of the African Languages Week is to increase awareness and appreciation of African languages by looking at pragmatic ways of empowering and rendering them relevant to the lives of Africans; promote the dynamics of African worldviews and philosophies of life, through the empowerment and use of African languages; demonstrate the indispensable role of African languages in the integration and sustainable peace and development of Africa, by putting them under the spotlight all through January 24 to 30 and using the period as a window to celebrate and reflect on African languages. The African Languages Week is also geared to taking stock on how African languages are faring in the world of global languages so as to see where we stand in our language development endeavors. It is also a way of developing linguistic cooperation and exchange, and assessing the necessary and vital work of developing the languages and the work that still needs to be done. The commemoration will also determine ways and means of making African languages more functional, acceptable and part of the development discourse of Africans and African global citizenship.
Various activities are designed around marking the African Languages Week 2022. ACALAN’s working structures in the AU member states will be expected to play a leading role in this regard. Members of the African Languages Week Coordinating Committee, policy makers, resource persons, experts in African languages and key stake holders will take part in the activities. Representatives of the various Departments and Directorates of the African Union Commission and African Union Member States will also participate. Representatives of the Assembly of Academicians of ACALAN, Members of ACALAN’s Secretariat and working structures, as well as members of the African Diaspora and institutions of culture and languages worldwide.
Following the launch of the week, meetings will take place on 25 and 26 February in virtual plenaries and breakout sessions owing to the Covid pandemic to chart the path forward. Participants (experts in the various domains) will make presentations on best practices, lessons learned and make suggestions on the way forward.
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